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  • 24 August, 2021

  • 12 Min Read

India’s first Smog Tower in Delhi

India’s first Smog Tower in Delhi

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday inaugurated a ‘smog tower in Connaught Place and said similar towers would be built across the city if the results of the current pilot project are satisfactory.

What is a Smog Tower?

  • The smog tower is a 24-metre-high structure fitted with fans and air filters. This is to solve the problem of Air Pollution in Delhi.
  • It will draw in polluted air from the top and release filtered air near the ground through fans fitted on the sides. The tower has 40 big fans and 5,000 filters to clean the air.
  • These are electrostatic air filters that can filter out microparticles, including those that constitute smoke, household dust and pollen, according to the project description. A Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system has been installed in the tower to collect data and monitor its functioning.
  • This tower has been established as a pilot project and detailed studies will be conducted on its performance. IIT-Delhi and IIT-Bombay will analyse data and submit a report on the effectiveness of the tower.
  • The tower will take in air from a radius of 1 km. It has a capacity of cleaning 1,000 cubic metres of air per second. It is estimated that the area will see a rapid change in air quality due to this smog tower.
  • On January 13 last year, the Supreme Court had ordered the Delhi government to build a ‘smog tower’ at Connaught Place by April 13, 2020, to control air pollution.
  • On the same day, the court also ordered a smog tower to be installed in Anand Vihar by the Central Pollution Control Board, by the same time.

Critical Analysis of Delhi Air Pollution

  • Every winter, Delhi- NCR is covered in a thick blanket of smog and the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority’ has to declare a public health emergency.
  • After AQI levels escalated following the annual episode of stubbleburning last year, the Supreme Court instructed the Delhi government and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to erect smog towers.
  • However, experts are unsure of the effectiveness of solitary smog towers spread few and far inbetween Delhi-NCR.
  • “This is pseudoscience the Supreme Court believes in. There is no scientific evidence that says smog towers actually help. If smog towers are the solution, we will need lakhs and lakhs of smog towers. The judiciary should base its decision on evidence and experts’ comments, instead of notions and intuitions,” says Activist and Swechha Founder Vimlendu Jha, adding, “In January, Gautam Gambhir put up a smog tower at Lajpat Nagar. Did anybody do a survey to figure out whether it had any impact? No.”
  • India took the decision of installing smog towers following China’s footsteps, but experts say China is implementing strong pollution control rules across sectors, which India hasn’t.
  • Environmentalist Jai Dhar Gupta observes that “Smog towers have failed everywhere in the world. There is no reason it will work here. They (SC) are pretending to put forth a solution that is not even a solution.”
  • Smog towers can solve problems very small areas around them, but not the whole city, says Sumit Sharma, Director, Earth Science and Climate Change Division, TERI. “It will only act upon the air in its vicinity of a few 100 metres.”

How do smog towers work?

  • There are different technologies used to clean the air. One uses HEPA filters, (used in indoor air purifiers), which filters PM 2.5 particles. Another uses electrostatic precipitators that attract PM 2.5 particles and collect them at the base of the tower.
  • Both would work in closed spaces, but are ineffective in open spaces. We don’t know what technology the IIT-Bombay or University of Minnesota is using because that hasn’t been shared in public.
  • One smog tower costs around Rs 7-8 lakh, so you can do the math. Even worse, if we use filters to clean the air, who is going to dispose of them once they get clogged?”

What is the solution?

  • The only way to reduce air pollution is to reduce emissions at the sources. Our problem is so severe and we have no option but to move away from fossil fuels. We know what percentage of emission comes from which source. Be it industrial, biomass burning, paddy burning or vehicular pollution.
  • We can also incentivise good behaviour and penalise bad behaviour. For instance, people driving electric cars can be given benefits, and those driving diesel cars can be penalised.
  • In a month, paddy burning will start in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Punjab, and the whole area from Pakistan to Bangladesh will turn into a hellhole. The SC has imposed a ban on stubble burning, but it is not being enforced properly.
  • There is a technology called flu gas desulphurisation – it is like putting a sieve on the chimney outlets of coal fired power plants. All thermal power plants must have these Those who don’t should be penalized.
  • If public money is being spent, and the Court is fixated on smog towers, Experts suggest, they should be placed in enclosed spaces with high footfalls, like hospitals, underground metro stations and indoor stadiums.

Source: TH

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